Silent running is an excellent attribute when driving around an upmarket estate at 06h00 searching for a photographic location. The electric motor that is connected to the rear axle of the XC90 T8 utilises the electrons from the 9,2 kWh battery that we charged overnight to effortlessly propel the vehicle past the rows of designer houses. Stealth mode aside, though, does the addition of electric power merit the T8 logo on the tailgate of the XC90?
Launched a few years ago, Volvo’s brave Drive-E powertrain strategy consists of only turbocharged 2,0-litre engines in both petrol and diesel. As the XC90 is the largest and heaviest vehicle in the Volvo range, it asks the most questions of the new strategy when up against its premium opposition. By adding an electric motor for a 300 kW combined power rating, Volvo has issued a challenge in both in the power and efficiency departments.
The T8 offers five driving modes, stretching from “pure” (electric), which offers 43 km of electric driving in optimum conditions, to “power” that employs maximum performance from both powertrains. The default “hybrid” mode tries to optimise performance and efficiency by seamlessly transitioning between electric and petrol modes.
Tip-in performance in this mode, however, is slightly disappointing. Initially relying solely on the 65 kW electric motor, the transmission (connected to the turbopetrol engine) takes some time to shift down a couple of gears and respond to throttle input. If you’re looking for more immediate responses, power mode is more suitable and allows you to experience the full thrust of 300 kW.
Volvo claims a fuel-consumption figure of 2,1 L/100 km and “optimistic” would be the kindest comment on that conservative NEDC test-derived figure. But the T8 is impressively frugal. During my drive, I could easily achieve less than 6,0 L/100 km as long as there was electric energy to call upon. Once the battery is depleted, performance and fuel consumption suffer. In this state, I couldn’t beat 10,0 L/100 km.
Brake feel is a tad artificial owing to kinetic energy being recouped by charging the battery housed in the cavity normally reserved for the propshaft. The T8 rides well but a tick in the box next to “air suspension” on the options list should elevate the ride to the next level.
What remains is a great vehicle that unfortunately makes sense only if you’re planning on using it often for short commutes, where the battery remains active. For all other applications, the substantially cheaper diesel derivatives are a more sensible choice.